These photographs recorded ordinary facts that contain nothing more than themselves. They fix time, frame a space. The pleonastic titles confirm what we see: Man and his dog, Victor Hugo statue, young man seated in Clermont with a hood.
In order to navigate his hard drives, AG renamed all his photos with tautological descriptions. I see in it the idea that he loves them for what they are, and that they are nothing more.
Linked to the films and novels of AG, these photos could be taken for scouting shots. It looks like it. Sometimes it is. However AG does not consider them as a work step.
AG: I have a desire for film documentaries. But each time I approached the thing, on the way I moved on to fiction, I didn’t feel the form, I couldn’t find the film. In photography I take on the spot, I capture people, atmospheres, moments. I have this relationship with life and also an aesthetic. I found an adequacy, there is a coherence between the subject and the aesthetic which becomes obvious, to which I could not reach in cinema. The scopophilia is also stronger, I am faced with a pure alterity, not a reconstruction or a staging.
AG once told me about his desire to cross the empty diagonal, a line that starts in the northeast and ends in the southwest, traversing some of the most depopulated French regions.
There is there for the photographer the desire to fix on film (photographic) arrangements (people, places…) without this becoming that (a film). What is AG looking for, night and day, in these peri-urban areas, these French and European cities? Kinds of genre scenes that happened all by themselves. Framed at 50 millimeters, a lens renowned for not overdoing it, dignified and distant, they are balanced and articulated around a palette, a certain pictorial elegance, which has to do with painting. Rectangles alternating warm and cold tones distributed on a black background, an apartment building in Hamburg with colored windows. Light that settles on a body, Man with bare chest. Blue spots that emerge from the black, Clermont scooter headlights. Red spot, toned, lost in the night, Man in red and young woman behind.
These are sometimes almost exposition scenes: the first seconds of a film, when the characters are still simple silhouettes without identification, journey or consistency, no more embodied than their environment: Railing in the park of Pépinière.
The exposition scene is a moment of purity, and watching a film, I sometimes think that I could have stopped there, rather than following the inevitable development, the game of empathy with the viewer, whether predictable or unpredictable.
Photographic fixity (unlike cinematic dynamics) immobilizes a situation and all its informations in a frozen totality; these photographs do not invite me to an interpretative reading but record facts, everything has an equal and readable importance: Angers street mass says as much about the vaguely pink light of the cold and sunny end of an autumn day as about the religious community gathered in front of the cathedral.
In AG’s films, the night plays an active role: the collective unconscious (combining the dreams of sleepers, the anxiety of insomniacs and the enthusiasm of partygoers) produces a kind of alchemy acting at a reflexive level, on the situations and the writing of a screenplay (which turns into the unstructured confusion of a dream, a nightmare).
Two-dimensional and frozen on photosensitive paper, the night of AG could have been embodied in the form of a matte surface clearly detaching objects, characters, etc. A convention that would have had coherence. But is not: revealed on fujiflex paper, ultra-shiny, ostentatious, the night is shimmering here. The preference for prints of reasonable size (all are 24 centimeters wide) and the everyday aspect of the scenes are responsible for soothing this intense paper, closing the doors to the spectacular.
And this scale awakens in me a vague familiar feeling, perhaps a haunting trace, a scent of holiday photos, vernacular (traditionally developed on glossy paper) but I don’t know if this is intentional on AG’s part.
Distanced by the documentary presentation of a vertical frame, these images do not impose themselves. But if we approach we discover that it is less an illustration or a representation of the night than its perception or its operating mode; an immersive space that engulfs everything; including the exhibition space and the viewer reflected in it. As at night, we try to distinguish something among these beings and these places lost in a scintillating dark matter: Clermont place Delille SDF with a dog, young in Clermont with a hood sitting, Angers fountain young man in black…
(…) And I rediscover the cosmos, these stars so distant that they must shine like a thousand suns so that their light reaches us, all these worlds which are agitated traveling at thousands of kilometers per hour and us with it, and nebulae and black holes and I think of the movement born of the Big Bang that makes the universe stretch even further. I feel overwhelmed, totally lost in the vertigo of the cosmos. And it’s so wonderful and it must be so wild up there that I wonder how come I’m not more aware of the cosmos in my life, on a daily basis. But it doesn’t last very long because I have Robert cluttering my head, it stirred me to hear him cry like that on the phone, even if it doesn’t sound like him, even if normally he would have preferred to hang up for no reason and cried all alone in his corner. I’ll have to call him back soon enough. And it would be nice if I called him back with something new to tell him, like I’m going up to see him next weekend, I can’t even tell him in a month, he wouldn’t like it. Or else tell him that I’m not going up at all. I don’t want to see him anymore. But that too is impossible. It’s not even true. I just don’t want to see him right now. I wonder what Enric is thinking, what he says about the universe. I’m trying to figure out how to ask him the question, because it would be nice if we exchanged a few words, it’s been a long time since we’ve spoken together. But I have no ideas, well, nothing more interesting than “Do you like looking at the stars? or “One feels so small, right?”. So I shut up. I look a little more at the stars and as he still does not move, I end up saying to him:
-I’m going to have a bite to eat, aren’t you hungry?*
Julien Carreyn, 2022
*Alain Guiraudie, Rabalaïre, 2021, éditions POL
Alain Guiraudie : Photographie
Until March 4th, 2023
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